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Saving the Boblo Ste. Claire: The time is now

Boblo boat the SS Ste. Claire
flickr user PunkToad

For 81 years, the majestic steamers the SS Columbia and the SS Ste. Claire took generations of Michiganders up and down the Detroit River to Boblo Island.

The hour-long river cruise to the amusement park was pure magic.

But the Boblo boats were taken out of operation in 1991, and the amusement park closed two years later.

There sat the two boats, rotting and decaying for more than two decades.

The Columbia has since been rescued by a group from New York State. She’s being fixed up and will be carrying passengers again, although not here in Michigan.

Her sister, the SS Ste. Claire, was not as lucky.

Now the Dan Austin of The Detroit Free Press is hoping torally Michiganders to come together to save the Ste. Claire.

In 2007, an emergency room physician named Ron Kattoo bought the Ste. Claire, and has been making progress renovating the ship, but as tells us, “It’s been a difficult process.”

Kattoo’s plans were delayed by health issues, and in the interim the boat continued to decay, but Austin says the Ste. Claire has seen more work than her older sister.

“He has been removing and replacing a lot of the rotted wood,” he tells us. “She’s a little bit rough around the edges, a little worse for wear, but I still think that the bones are there.”

Austin tells us that the Detroit Free Press editorial board has decided that if this cherished piece of Detroit history is going to be saved, it has to be done now.

Dan Austin tells us more about the Boblo boats and how to move forward on restoration in our conversation above.

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